Last week the US State Department Senior Advisor, Office of the Special Envoy for Eurasian Energy, Daniel Stein, visited Ashgabat to discuss cooperation in the energy sector, saying that the US values Turkmenistan’s energy strategy and the country’s initiatives to ensure global energy security. This week, Turkmenistan received US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, Robert Blake, who praised Turkmenistan's international initiatives to address global challenges and expressed the appreciation of the United States for the important support that Turkmenistan is providing to Afghanistan and to broader regional efforts to forge regional integration through projects such as the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline. According the Blake, he “had a good discussion on human rights issues, some of the new laws that have been passed here in Turkmenistan, as well as on educational and exchange programs that are of great importance.” During a meeting with Robert Blake President Berdymukhamedov reaffirmed Turkmenistan's readiness to further promote political, economic and cultural dialogue with the US, and said Turkmenistan is ready to provide its political space for inter-Afghan peace dialogue under the auspices of the UN.
Some analysts feared that the US has put political and civil rights on the back-burner, given the US focus on regional security, as a visit from Afghanistan’s president Hamid Karzai to Washington DC earlier this month indicated an imminent drawdown of US troops. Nurmuhammed Khanamov, who heads the exiled opposition Republican Party from Vienna, predicted that Blake and Berdymukhamedov would “briefly touch on human rights and democracy issues, but as usual, this will be superficial and [purely] declaratory."
The country continues to score bottom-of-the-scale rankings on rights and freedom indices. Last week The Wall Street Journal published its annual Index of Economic Freedom and placed Turkmenistan at 169 out of 177 countries ranked as “repressed.” This week, US watchdog Freedom House’s latest edition of “Freedom in the World” ranked at the bottom of the 47 countries designated as Not Free, keeping company with Eritrea, Equatorial Guinea, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Uzbekistan.
The Turkmenistan-UN Joint Working Group held a meeting at Turkmenistan’s Foreign Ministry to develop a plan of national consultations and define the global goals and targets for the period after 2015. The UN Resident Coordinator in Ashgabat, Jacinta Barrins, stressed that the UN views Turkmenistan as a responsible strategic partner and important player in many international processes.
Back at home President Berdymukhamedov’s wrath with his employees may be tempering off. After three weeks of numerous severe reprimands and terminations, last week the President only scolded the Vice Premier in charge of the oil and gas sector and the Head of the State Agency for Management and Use of Hydrocarbon Resources under the President of Turkmenistan, Yagshigeldi Kakayev, for “improper performance of duties, disregard for labor discipline, and shortcomings in his work,” and expressed dissatisfaction with the Parliament, saying that it does not duly supervise the implementation of the laws it adopts.